There could be many stories told about adventures with animals during my childhood but the one that will probably interest readers the most is the tale about how Christy came into my life.
I was about nine or ten at the time and absolutely crazy about animals. I read every book I could get my hands on about various creatures and had an assortment of different pets over the years. I even KNEW I was going to become a veterinarian when I grew up so when I saw a lone pigeon land on the roof of my front porch one day I immediately set out to catch it.
But how does one trap a wild bird?
I ran into the house and told my mother there was a pigeon outside and I wanted to catch it. My mother didn't think I could accomplish such a feat...she should have known me better than that...but still gave me permission to use some bread and her laundry basket. Gathering my supplies, I ran back outside and placed bits of bread on the sidewalk in plain sight and waited patiently for that pigeon to fly down so it could check out the banquet I had laid out for it.
Minutes passed and I was beginning to worry whether my plan was going to work when suddenly down swoops that pigeon to check out the bread. Slowly, cautiously I approached with my laundry basket ready. Someone else with less faith would have thought it impossible to catch a wild bird in this way but i just knew in my heart I could do this and yet I was still surprised when I successfully placed the basket over the bird.
I already had a rabbit and some bobwhite quail as pets so finding an extra cage in our garage was not a problem. I named my pigeon Christy and proceeded to "tame" her. The first thing I noticed was the engraved band she had around one of her legs. My mother told me that was so someone could track her migration patterns. I decided I was going to train Christy to do tricks but the first thing I had to do was convince her to stay with me. It seems kinda cruel to me now, but back then I tied a ten foot long piece of string around one of her legs and the other end to her cage. For the first couple of hours she attempted to fly away but every time the string would remind her an invisible barrier kept her tethered to my house.
Christy soon came to love being with me and I enjoyed her company. I caught her during the summer and soon trained her to ride on my shoulder as I would ride my bicycle to the grocery store and back home. She would fly to the roof of the store and wait while I went inside, constantly checking the faces as people emerged until she saw me and would then fly down to land on my shoulder for the ride home.
She lived with me for about a year before the call of the wild enticed her away. I was devastated one day when I went to check on her and found her gone. I even decided to go in search of her and spent the next two days riding my bike around my hometown searching for her.
Fate is a funny thing and not one to be ignored. Late in the afternoon of the second day I was riding past a house on the other side of town and I noticed a group of pigeons feeding in the back yard. Could Christy have been lonely and gone in search of some friends? I got off my bike and stood in that front yard calling her name. Silly to think I had found Christy and that she would come to me but I have always been a person of tremendous faith and so I tried it anyway. Suddenly one pigeon out of the group rose into the air and flew over to land on my shoulder. Christy!
She started cooing as she always did before but this time I think she was trying to tell me she had found her family. I was sad to have to say goodbye but I knew Christy would be happier with her own kind so I petted her one last time and sent her back to her family. I rode home thinking that was the last time I would see her.
But like anyone who ever listened to Paul Harvey's REST OF THE STORY, my own Christy tale did not end there.
About a week later I walked outside to discover a flock of pigeons waiting for me on my roof. Like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds, Christy had convinced her entire family to come back for a visit. Amazed, I raced into the house to grab birdseed and for the next two months Christy would bring her family over to the house once a day for a meal before they all flew back to their other home on the other side of town. It was like Christy was trying to show a young girl that she was okay...that she was with others who loved her.
I know there are people in this world who think animals are just dumb creatures who can't comprehend the world as we do. But I know from experience that when it comes to the things that matter in this world...love, compassion, friendship...all of God's creatures big and small have the ability to not only feel it but to share it across the boundaries of space and species.
In my mind Christy turned out to be a wonderful grandmother, telling her offspring stories of the time she went on a grand adventure and met a little girl who became her friend.
Fly on, Christy, fly on...